Bulls

Fred Hoiberg hints at more changes on horizon for Bulls lineup

Fred Hoiberg hints at more changes on horizon for Bulls lineup

More changes are on the horizon for the Bulls, still smarting after a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves that feels like more than just one on the ledger.

It doesn’t seem like Fred Hoiberg can do much more aside from playing his last two first-round picks, Denzel Valentine and Bobby Portis, who both went with the dreaded “DNP-Coach’s Decision” on the scoring sheet Tuesday night as the Bulls coughed up a 21-point lead — the biggest giveaway in the NBA this season.

Valentine looks like he’ll get more of a look, perhaps in place of the struggling Isaiah Canaan, who didn’t play Saturday against Miami and hasn't been much of an offensive factor when he has played in the last week or so, as he’s shooting 13 percent from 3-point range this month.

Valentine played 22 minutes against Portland after playing 25 in the blowout loss to Dallas earlier this month, but hasn’t seen much time since. Even though Rajon Rondo (ankle) is expected to be back, it appears Valentine will get a bit of an extended look.

“We'll continue to work at things as we move forward as far as possibly changing some things up with guys coming off the bench,” Hoiberg said. “We've tried to change our substitution patterns to where we have at least one, more often than not two, starters out there on the floor at all times.”

Second-round pick Paul Zipser, a player who’s seen more time in the D-League than on the floor, will get a look as well. It doesn’t feel quite like desperation but one has to wonder if Hoiberg’s patience with some of his young players is starting to run thin.

“Paul Zipser will get an opportunity at some point from what he has shown,” Hoiberg said. “Even that game he played for Windy City, he showed a lot of promise and has a bright future. We’ll continue to keep those guys ready and hopefully they’ll help us win some games and produce.”

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Valentine hasn’t found his groove since returning from an ankle injury he suffered in the first preseason game, which cost him a lot of time. Also, he seems to struggle finding his way without being a playmaker, which was his specialty at Michigan State.

Here, he would have more value as a shot maker than creator considering he plays more with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Either there’s not much trust in him running the show or they simply don’t need him to at this point.

“Denzel will see more time as we move forward. There’s no doubt about that,” Hoiberg said. “A lot of it has been based on what he’s doing out here, the amount of time and effort and work he’s putting into it. There will be a time again when Bobby gets that opportunity.”

What the Bulls need is some form of perimeter shooting and even more pressing is the need to be settled when other teams make runs, such as the Timberwolves coming back from a 19-point deficit in the last four minutes of the first half to cut it to a manageable four-point game at the half.

“The biggest thing that I looked at as I watched it a couple times and laid awake thinking about it was just the lead we gave up,” Hoiberg said. “A 21-point lead in your home building, you have to find a way to win those games. That was the focus for me.”

Calling the collapse “inexcusable”, Hoiberg noticed a few other basic tenets being abandoned in the afternoon film session before his team’s back-to-back set against the young and athletic Milwaukee Bucks Thursday and Friday: Terrible transition defense and inconsistent rebounding.

Robin Lopez said the Bulls have shown the foundation of being a good defensive team that rebounds well, but it slipped for a night.

“I think we're a very strong defensive team, honestly,” Lopez said. “We've been successful, we've been very good at that. We've rebounded well, we've defended well, especially in transition we've guarded pretty well. When we give up offensive rebounds, when we let teams get easy buckets off the glass, we're not quite as good.”

And when those things sprout up, it puts Hoiberg in the unenviable position of more shuffling, even though nobody appears ready to step forward with each opportunity.

Patrick Beverley tells Wojnarowski: 'Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense'

Patrick Beverley tells Wojnarowski: 'Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense'

Patrick Beverley's path to the NBA was an intriguing one, a true story of perseverance featuring many twists and turns. For those who haven't closely followed Beverley's career, the Chicago native and current Los Angeles Clipper had a three-year career overseas before he really caught on in the NBA, landing a multi-year deal with the Houston Rockets in 2013. Before landing with the Rockets, Beverley played for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine), Olympiacos Piraeus (Greece), Spartak St. Petersburg (Russia) before landing in Houston but a lesser-known fact is that Beverley actually spent time practicing with the Bulls within the first two years of his overseas basketball career. 

On Saturday's episode of "The Woj Pod" hosted by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Beverley discussed the importance of glue guys, Kris Dunn's season and much more. One of the more interesting tidbits was the aforementioned workouts with the Bulls. Beverley responded to a Woj question about if he could've played with the Bulls had things went differently earlier in his career:

I worked in the summertime with the Bulls, I don't know, two-three years in a row, Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense...

Beverley elicited laughter from the crowd but he is clearly (and some would say rightfully) still upset by those who didn't give him an opportunity along the way. He went on to say that there is a "dynamic that fans don't know" and "can only assume." In the interview, Beverley didn't give a specific year but he says "two-three years" and clearly states that Vinny Del Negro was the head coach, meaning that he likely scrimmaged with the Bulls at points during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

When you take a closer look at those rosters, the possible matchups Beverley had become incredibly interesting to think about. The 2009 Bulls had nine players scoring in double figures — and a 10th scoring 9.9 points per game in Kirk Hinrich — and the 2010 Bulls had six players scoring in double figures.

Beverley could've had matchups against Larry Hughes (12,0 PPG in '09), John Salmons (career-high 18.3 PPG in '09), Ben Gordon (20.7 PPG in '09), or even Derrick Rose (18.7 PPG from 2008-10). Out of that group, Gordon and Rose specifically, can make any defender look bad on their best day, so maybe Del Negro's mistake wasn't as egregious as it appears now. Either way, Beverley certainly hasn't forgotten the ordeal. 

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Derrick Jones Jr. takes down Aaron Gordon in an all-time great NBA Dunk Contest

Derrick Jones Jr. takes down Aaron Gordon in an all-time great NBA Dunk Contest

Ask anyone from Chicago around All-Star weekend, and you'll quickly learn the city breeds tough, gritty and relentless basketball.

Apparently, it also breeds controversial dunk contests.

Thirty-two years after Michael Jordan bested Dominique Wilkins in a contest at the Old Chicago Stadium that many agree saw a healthy heaping of home-cooking on the menu, Derrick Jones Jr. topped Aaron Gordon in an affair that sent shockwaves through the NBA universe. Here's the rundown:

Highlights from regulation

There was a special feeling about this one from the very beginning.

Perhaps white men can jump:

 

 

Dwight busted out the cape (again) — and tributed Kobe along the way:

 

Aaron Gordon at one point rattled off five 50s in a row:

 

The finish

In the end, it all came down to Gordon and Jones, who duked out a dunk-off that featured some absolute haymakers:

 

It was raucous fun, truly. But the controversy came at the finish. Jones' final dunk was an attempted reprisal of Julius Erving's famous free-throw line dunk (re-popularized by Jordan, partly in that aforementioned '88 contest), which registered a 48. Gordon then pulled out the 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall for an improvised leapfrog that nearly tore the roof down.

 

"It was a great decision for him to do that. Everybody knows Tacko's a fan favorite," Jones said. "I knew it was going to get the crowd hyped."

"He (Fall) was a little bit nervous. He was like 'I got faith in you.' I was like, 'I appreciate it,'" Gordon said.

That dunk, though, garnered only a 47 from the judges. Game, set, match: Jones. Boos cascaded from the rafters.

The reaction

That sentiment carried over into the postgame presser.

"What are we doing here?" Gordon bemoaned to assorted media before even taking his seat at the podium. "Jumping over somebody 7-foot-5 and dunking is no easy feat. What did I get, like a 47? Come on, man. What are we doing?"

All fair questions. All fair points.

"I don't even know who gave me the 9s. I'm going to find them," he added with a laugh. "Trust me, I'm going to find them tonight.

Dwyane Wade, Scottie Pippen and Chadwick Boseman... Look out.

Gordon did give Jones his due, calling him a "leaper" and "great dunker." Still, this appears to be the final contest of Gordon's career.

"It's a wrap, bro. It's a wrap. I feel like I should have two trophies," Gordon said, alluding to his defeat at the hands of Zach LaVine in 2016. "My next goal is going to be trying to win the 3-point contest."

Jones, meanwhile, contested the premise that Gordon was robbed at all.

"When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing since high school and I know that's 50-worthy. There's no way I should have got a 48," Jones said. "He clipped Tacko's head when he did that dunk, so I knew they couldn't have gave him a 50 for that one. I would have respected it if they gave him another 48, so we can go again."

In that event, Jones said he would have been ready.

"I just turned 23, I got legs for days," Jones said. Jones' birthday was the night of the contest, and he said he had dunks planned for as long as the judges allowed them to.

And though Jones hasn't yet thought about where this dunk contest ranks in the history of ones before, he's ready for the next challenge.

"Whoever want to step out there. I don't know. I'm not naming no names. I don't want to call nobody out, but whoever want to step out in front of me, I'm there. I'm not going to shy away from nobody."

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